For ASU hockey, there has always been one breakout performance by a player in each game so far this season.
Freshman forward Stephen Collins had the best game of his young college career on Thursday.
Collins put not one, not two, but three goals past Eastern Michigan junior goaltender Andrew Duff.
“It’s nice to get a couple goals,” Collins said. “I shot the puck a lot more tonight.”
Coach Greg Powers was pleased with his team’s performance, and especially proud of his young player.
“(Collins) had a coming out party,” Powers said. “He took over the game tonight.”
One of Collins’ goals could have been aired on ESPN SportsCenter’s Top-10 Plays that night.
Collins faced off one-on-one with an Eastern Michigan defender and dribbled the puck back and forth. Collins passed it back to himself through the defender’s legs — giving the defender “Jell-O” legs — and putting it past Duff.
“It felt good,” Collins laughed modestly.
It wasn’t easy for the No. 2 Sun Devils (9-0-0), as it took them a whole period to figure out how to score past Duff.
Duff was remarkable through the first period and seemed to be impenetrable.
ASU blasted Duff with 22 shots through the first period alone, but nothing got the back of the net.
By the end of the first period, the Sun Devils found themselves in unfamiliar territory trailing 1-0.
The Sun Devils pressured Eastern Michigan (5-5-0) for the entire first period, keeping the puck in the Eagles’ zone and allowed only five shots on goal.
Unfortunately, the physicality of ASU proved to be its downfall in the first period.
The Eagles put the puck past junior goaltender Joseph D’Elia on their five-on-three power play in the first period.
The ASU goaltenders may have perfect records, but the Sun Devils’ penalty habits have cost the goalies unearned goals this season.
Powers agrees the penalties have been a recurring issue all year, but he still likes the physicality of his team.
“The physicality is good,” Powers said. “There were three penalties that didn’t need to happen by us, but we played a good game. Outside of that, their goalie played well, so that can show how dangerous we can be.”
The Sun Devils responded flawlessly in the second period, scoring six goals by six different players.
“I told the guys to stay calm and stay relaxed,” Powers said on what he told his players before the second period.
ASU put the game in cruise control from then on out, as the Sun Devils put away the Eagles with three more goals in the third period and won 9-2.
Through ASU’s first 10 games, the team has come together and has begun to mesh well on and off the ice.
“They’re a real tight-knit group, and I’m real proud of them this season,” Powers said.
Sun Devils defeat Colorado State
The Sun Devils had an off night offensively against D-II Colorado State (6-3-0) on Friday night.
While many expected a large deficit similar to the night before, Powers said he was satisfied with his team’s closer-than-usual win after the Sun Devils 4-1 victory.
“We’re not going to win every game by 10 goals,” Powers said. “We got a target on our back and they came ready to play.”
ASU had only 37 shots on goal. It seems like a lot, but it falls short of the 65 shots on goal the Sun Devils attempted on Thursday night against a superior Eastern Michigan team.
ASU goaltender junior Kyle Dietriech played phenomenally by allowing only one goal, which entailed some déjà-vu.
The Rams scored on a five-on-three power play identical to EMU’s first goal the night before against ASU.
Powers is still pleased with the way the team has played thus far, but knows it’s only the beginning.
“From here on out, it’s all tough games,” Powers said.
ASU hockey travels south to meet the inner-state rivals UA for a two game series this coming weekend.
“They’re going to be a lot better than what we saw when they were here earlier this year,” Powers said. “It’s always fun going down there.”
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